Romney Prepares To Take Major Step Toward Republican Nomination

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For Mitt Romney, New Hampshire was always supposed to work out this way, to be one of those crowning achievements on the road to the 2012 Republican Party presidential nomination. But it didn’t work out that way four years ago. Arizona-turned-New Hampshire favorite son John McCain cut him off at the pass and made Romney look bad doing it — a loss in Romney’s New England home base in the U.S. Northeast that was both embarrassing and telling for Romney’s 2008 White House hopes.

This year looks different. The voters may not love him up here, but they like him well enough. New Englanders don’t always take too well to newcomers, but Romney is well known here, having served as the governor of neighboring Massachusetts who has kept a summer home in the beautiful New Hampshire lakes country.

Of course, Romney still has to win Tuesday’s primary and from his point of view he should do it convincingly. But remember that New Hampshire has a way of messing things up. Just ask President Obama, who got a bit derailed with his unexpected loss here to Hillary Clinton four years ago. Romney has been preparing for his winning New Hampshire moment for years. He’s got the name recognition, the organization and the money to make it happen. The only question is how big will his margin be.


The Battle For First And Second In New Hampshire

Texas Congressman Ron Paul has long claimed the number two spot in New Hampshire and told my VOA colleague Carolyn Presutti in an interview that he feels he is gaining on Mitt Romney in the closing hours. Paul is a good fit for New Hampshire, a state whose motto is “Live Free or Die,” where crusty New Englanders are suspicious of anything that even smacks of government or telling people what to do.

Growing up in neighboring Massachusetts, I remember that the Republican governors for decades always made a huge deal out of keeping taxes virtually non-existent. Up here, people were Tea Party before the Tea Party was cool.

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum is another matter. He needs to be seen as at least keeping his momentum going after nipping at Romney’s heels in Iowa.

My guess is Santorum will have somewhat limited appeal here compared to Iowa, because conservative Christian voters are simply not as much of a factor in New Hampshire. Plus, independents are allowed to vote in the New Hampshire Republican primary and they tend to moderate the result a bit anyway.


South Carolina Looms Next

After New Hampshire, it’s on the to the Palmetto state. South Carolina has a pretty good record of predicting Republican nominees. John McCain won it four years ago, but in 2000, he lost a pivotal contest to George W. Bush that opened the way for Bush to secure the Republican nomination and go on to the presidency.

It’s South Carolina where Romney could face his toughest test to date. Texas Governor Rick Perry is likely to make an Alamo-like last stand in South Carolina in hopes of revitalizing his campaign. Rick Santorum will do all he can to appeal to social conservatives, who are a real force in South Carolina. And Newt Gingrich will be looking to South Carolina to re-energize his campaign as well, especially among defense hawks and retired military folks looking for a candidate strong on national defense.

Romney did poorly in South Carolina four years ago but is ahead in the latest polls this time around. It will also help that the sharply conservative voters who remain a bit elusive for Romney are split among several candidates in South Carolina, and that could Romney could squeeze by with a victory. If Romney were able to win the first three contests, it’s hard to see how he could be stopped on his way to the nomination.